The Woodlands Township has an embarrassment of riches that it wants to share with all its residents.

The city currently has 14 pools, ranging from a small 70,000-gallon pool with simple zero-depth entry ramp and small play structure, to a facility with a 300,000-gallon pool, complete with a 500-foot lazy river and a large waterslide and play structure. Understandably, some saw more traffic than others.

“Most people know the ones closest to their neighborhoods, but they don’t know how many options they have,” says Marty Mulgrew, Aquatics Superintendent for The Woodlands Township.

So the aquatics team wanted a way to get citizens to explore all the options, and maybe even boost attendance in the process. It developed two special programs mean to bring bodies to the sites.

Exotic escapade

As an enticement for families to visit all 14 pools, The Woodlands Aquatics revived and revamped a program it had employed before — a passport or punch-card-type system where visitors were credited for each location they explored. They called it the High Seas Adventure Program.

To make it as engaging as possible, they turned it into a scavenger hunt. At each location, the staff would provide a clue for a feature to find, such as a rock wall, lily pad, splash pad or slide. Once they found their target, adventurers would photograph themselves with it and post the image to their own social media accounts.

Not only did this spread word to the visitor’s followers, but it provided photos that The Woodlands could use on their own sites. For this reason, the most picturesque features were chosen at each site.

Those who visited seven or more pools were called “High Seas Adventurers.” Experiencing all 14 pools earned you the title “Circumnavigator.” Both tiers have their own tee shirt, and each Circumnavigator is entered into a drawing for a free season pass.

During the 2023 season, 330 individuals participated in the High Seas Adventure Program — 77 achieving Circumnavigator status, and 102 becoming High Seas Adventurers. “We had a couple families that went through it twice,” Mulgrew says. “They grabbed the neighborhood kids or brought friends the second time.”

The team plans to offer the High Seas Adventure Program in 2024 in two versions – one for smaller children, and another for older kids who can meet the height requirements of the more advanced features and understand more complicated clues.

Flash event

The Woodlands team developed a second marketing program that achieved multiple goals – Pop at the Pool.

About 24 hours in advance, it announces the events on its social-media accounts. The team sets up an inflatable obstacle course and provides popsicles to season-pass holders.

At each Pop at the Pool event, visitors entered to win a punch card entitling the holder to five visits at any facility. Participants wrote their names and contact information on their raffle tickets. Those who provided email addresses were automatically signed up for the electronic newsletter.

Newsletter subscriber receive two weeks’ notice for the Pop at the Pool events.

During summer, an event was held about once a week for two hours, each at a different facility. The team held them at times that traditionally saw low attendance, hoping to boost attendance during those windows. “We’ve seen a 120% increase in attendance during those times, versus our five-year average,” Mulgrew says.

Not only did the program boost its social-media follows, but it gave the city a chance to promote the inflatable obstacle courses, which it rents out as an add-on at parties and events.

Finally, the Woodlands Township offers photo opportunities for its swim teams and swim classes. Each team had its own frame identifying it and the various hashtags for The Woodlands’ aquatics. The swimmer can stand in the frame, take a photo and post to social media.

Mulgrew and Roberts point out that these programs were relatively inexpensive. Pop at the Pool just required a freezer and popsicles, while the frames could be made relatively inexpensively at a sign shop. In terms of staffing, an extra person might be needed to hand out clues or prizes, or to take pictures.